This is a preview of the full article - Full access is exclusive to subscribers. To read the full article please subscribe to our print or digital version of Ornament Magazine. Subscribe now!
Liberty of London for Dr. Martens “MARTENS FLOWER” boot, 2012.
Prince of Prints

The Legacy of Arthur

Lasenby Liberty




At the height of his influence, Liberty’s name encompassed a whole lifestyle, supplying every kind of household and personal ornament.

Since their introduction in the late nineteenth century, Liberty prints have never truly gone out of style. But suddenly, the small, delicate, floral patterns are everywhere, blooming on boots, bags, ballet slippers, and even bikinis. Today, “Liberty print” has become a generic term for any textile with a small, floral pattern. However, the phrase actually refers to one visionary design entrepreneur, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, founder of the Liberty of London department store.

Textiles were in Liberty’s blood. The son of a draper, he was born in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1843; his uncle was a Nottingham lace manufacturer. Liberty worked in the family business and apprenticed with a London draper, but he was more interested in painting, literature and history and felt stifled by the mercantile world.

In 1862, Liberty managed to get a job in Farmer & Rogers’ Great Shawl & Cloak Emporium on London’s fashionable Regent Street. The trend for large shawls—and the vast crinolines they covered—was at its apex, and Farmer & Rogers counted Queen Victoria among their clients. Their wares included British-made Paisley and Norwich shawls as well as imports from France, India, China, and Japan, which had only recently opened its ports to foreign trade.





Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is an independent fashion historian and a frequent contributor to Ornament. For this issue Chrisman-Campbell has made two insightful contributions for some good reading. She reviewed jewelry artist Wendy Ramshaw’s enigmatic exhibition “Room of Dreams” at Somerset House, London, the first stop on its two-year tour of the United Kingdom. She also looks at the history of Liberty prints, a 138-year-old textile tradition, started by Arthur Lasenby Liberty in the Victorian era, that is blooming on everything from sneakers to skinny jeans this season.





This article in its entirety appears only in the print magazine.

Keep rich and engaging content in your life, click here to subscribe today.



  Follow Ornament on...